He told her where the money was. Not on the nightstand, on the dresser. She told him he was full of shit, there was no money on the dresser. He smiled as he pulled on his underwear and told her once again it was on the dresser. She looked again, but there was nothing but a picture of a pretty woman laughing on the beach, an empty vase, plain ceramic, flared out at the top with scalloped edges. She zipped up her black dress and he could tell she was angry because the zipper caught on her bare skin, her creamy white skin and she cried out, cursed. She was dressing in a hurry, frustrated with his games. She thought his games ended in the bed, but those were nothing to him. Tying her hands to the bedposts with neckties, his hand covering her face, not to prevent her from breathing, but preventing him from seeing her, her fake expressions, her closed eyes, her mouth opening, releasing moans of practiced pleasure, those were more ritual than games. He walked over to her and she backed away to the doorway, stood there like she was protecting herself from an earthquake. He shook the vase, nodded to her and went to the bathroom to empty his bladder, leaving the door open so he could hear her arm slip into the vase, could hear it clunk against the wood of the dresser as she tried to reach the money at the bottom. He didn’t bother to flush or wash his hands, just went back into the bedroom to watch her struggle for her keep. She wasn’t as smart as the others. They simply overturned the vase and the hundreds fell to the floor and they picked them up and left.
She glared at him, asked, “What the fuck?”
“Is your arm stuck?”
“No, but I can’t reach the bottom. Why would you put the money in here?”
“Why not just turn it over? The money would’ve fallen right out.”
She took her arm out of the vase, face red, with fury or embarrassment he couldn’t tell, but he whichever it was, he enjoyed it.
“Is this a fucking game? Like you calling me Chloe at dinner, like you cutting the ties with scissors. I could’ve gotten out of ‘em. Those knots weren’t shit.”
“Why don’t you just turn the vase over and get your money?”
She took the vase in her hand and held it over her head. His heart began to beat faster and he had to keep from running at her, had to keep from tackling her to the ground. She was going to do it. Finally.
“How ‘bout I just do this, motherfucker?”
She smashed the vase on the ground and it shattered, shards of pure white scattered on the hardwood floor. The money was folded in the center of the wreckage and she picked it up.
She counted the money and looked at him. “You’re short.”
“Twenty dollars, I know. You wore stilettos. Whore shoes. She would’ve never worn those atrocities.”
“You’re crazy. Keep your twenty.”
She walked over to the side of the bed and picked up her shoes and put them on, high heels, thin, dangerous, like she was walking on blades.
“Don’t call me again.”
“I never call again. See yourself out.”
She left the bedroom and he could hear her walk downstairs and out the front door, slamming it shut.
When she had gone he got on his knees and brushed whatever shards of the vase he could find into a neat pile on the ground.
He began to cry.
There were just two more ties he had to get rid of, just two more. But the picture of her, the picture he took when they went to the beach and she couldn’t stop laughing because he screamed when a seagull shit on his shoulder.
How could he ever get rid of that?